Have you ever wondered why Facebook, which many people consider to be mostly a waste of time (though occasionally interesting or inspiring), is so addictive?
The somewhat counter-intuitive answer is: Saber-toothed tigers!
Think back to when you were a cave person, or, to be more precise, when your ancestors were cave people, dedicating their lives to the mission of selecting the genes you carry today, along with the task of celebrating cave-Mother's Day, and other ancient traditions.
In those days, your brain's primary occupation was "saber-toothed tiger watch-person." In the Pleistocene Era, even uneducated people knew that being eaten by a homicidal feline reduced longevity. So, people who wanted to live for a long time were not going to Weight Watchers. They were watching out for the nightmare-level BMI equivalent of their era: saber-toothed tigers (and snakes, bears, mammoths, and lost, time-traveling anthropologists).
But they had a problem: no one knew what a saber-toothed tiger looked like. Anyone who was lucky enough to see one got eaten before they had a chance to report back. This occurrence explains why even today, you'll never see a photo of a saber-toothed tiger.
Although our cave people ancestors didn't have an identikit description of a saber-tooth, they did suspect that there was something nasty roaming around out there. Kind of like in that Alien
movie, where you never see the monster, but the population of the spaceship keeps dwindling down inexplicably. So, when cave people kept disappearing and their friends found polite little thank-you notes saying, "That was delicious, one more please," even the dimmest cave person began to feel uneasy.
Uneasy to the point of paranoia. In those days, they had to remain constantly alert to danger, always on the lookout for any change in their surroundings or anything out of the ordinary, such as a nine-inch fang someone carelessly left poking out from behind a bush.
Fast-forward to the less immediate, but still danger-fraught, modern lifestyle. Saber-tooths, along with practically all of our traditional predators (with the exception of insurance salesmen and oil companies), are now safely extinct. But no one ever bothered to explain this to your reptilian brain. It still thinks it has to watch out for any change in the environment that might herald the appearance of an underfed monster. That's why we are so fascinated by bad news about accidents, crises, warnings, and updates of impending doom - our inner reptile is keeping alert to possible threats. And what is our most immediate source of up-to-the-minute information?
? Forget about it. So 20th century! If you're foolish enough to wait for their hourly update, you're already nice and warm in the saber-tooth's tummy.
If you said "Facebook," give yourself a gold star. Facebook updates are your best protection against unexpected attack. If you have an absurd number of "friends," like me, you are getting new posts every few seconds. It's a sure bet that if a live, saber-toothed tiger shows up anywhere, people will be talking about it on Facebook instantly. The news will shoot around the world at the speed of "like." Facebook has created the most advanced saber-tooth early warning system the world has ever known. And now, after years of testing, the jury is in - it is 100% effective. Since the launch of Facebook, not a single person has been eaten by a saber-toothed tiger - the ultimate measurable outcome!
So, do as I do. Help Facebook keep you safe. Accumulate more friends whom you don't know! Keep checking for updates every thirty seconds, and your growing army of alert watchers will be sure to warn you when you are about to be eaten by a tiger.
After all, isn't that what friends are for?
Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.
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